Bryce Harper has explicitly referenced his love of baseball history dozens of times in recent years; not the baseball history of his youth, but moments and players from the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s, and earlier. Here, for example, is a passage from a USA Today piece last year:
It is perhaps not surprising to learn the players Harper most admires are [Mickey] Mantle, George Brett and Pete Rose because “they played the game absolutely as hard as they could every day.”…
“I love [Mantle]. He was unbelievable — incredible,” he says. “Mantle always was my favorite player,” with his love for him stirred by his father.
“I mean, watching his games on ESPN Classic and hearing things about him, he was the typical corn-fed white kid from Oklahoma,” Harper says. “And so cool to watch play. I’ve always tried to (model) my game after his — how he played, what he accomplished. What better player to put a number on for.”
So when MLB readied its latest “For the Love of Baseball” spot — this one starring Harper — it was perhaps natural to adopt a throwback theme.
Thus, the 30-second spot — which will appear during this weekend’s nationally televised Fox Sports 1 and ESPN MLB broadcasts, and will also air on MTV2 and MLB Network — imagines Harper as a baseball Forrest Gump or Zelig. There is he, mugging with Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. There he is, running the base paths in that old-timey, herky-jerky newsreel style. There he is, waving Carlton Fisk’s home run fair, and facing off with Nolan Ryan.
“Bryce Harper is only 21 years old,” the narrator says at the end. “But he already looks like a legend.”
Several other young MLB stars — Andrew McCutchen, David Price, Mike Trout — already have been featured in these “For the Love of Baseball” spots. Other ads, featuring players such as Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder, will appear later in the season.